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Can a spouse’s bad behavior impact an alimony amount?

On Behalf of | Mar 20, 2024 | Family Law

There are many factors that are considered when determining alimony in a North Carolina divorce. Most people will automatically equate the award with which spouse was the primary earner, the standard of living established during the marriage and the lesser earning spouse’s prospects to support themselves after the marriage.

There are, however, other issues that can be critical when the court decides how much alimony will be paid and for how long. One consideration that can come to the forefront is if there was bad behavior during the marriage. Technically known as marital misconduct, this can play a key role in alimony.

What constitutes marital misconduct?

There are many behaviors that the court will categorize as marital misconduct and might impact alimony. An obvious example is related to sexual behavior. Most will view this in the context of infidelity, but it can also include deviate behavior with the spouse. Adultery will qualify as misconduct.

If the parties are separated involuntarily because of a criminal act before the divorce case and the request for alimony, this can play a role in the amount. Abandonment or maliciously removing the spouse from the home are forms of marital misconduct. So too would cruel treatment that endangers the spouse’s life such as domestic abuse.

Other behaviors include the spouse acting in a way that makes the other person’s life intolerable during the marriage; reckless spending of family income; destroying or wasting assets; addiction to alcohol or drugs; and willfully refusing to provide subsistence based on their means and doing so to make the other person’s life difficult.

Alimony can be complicated

Alimony determination hinges on myriad factors. This can be viewed from the perspective of the person who is requesting alimony payments, but the marital misconduct can occur with either party. The person who is being asked to pay could prove that the other spouse committed these acts and reduce or avoid alimony.

In any family law case there are unavoidable areas of disagreement. Alimony can be quite contentious and it is imperative for the parties to understand all facets of how it is calculated. From the beginning, it is useful to be aware of the law and know what can be done to address these matters.